April 15, 2016 — Maria von Beetzen (drawing titled “Rose Mtn. Snag” and book #187), Paris
The plane landed in Paris 30 minutes late, chopping out the legs from the already short, 55-minute layover.
This meant, a brisk walk would no longer work. I sprinted through the airport. Every time I wanted to stop, I thought of the last time I was stuck in this nightmare. Flashbacks hit me from the long bus ride to the Magic Castle Hotel, two years ago. Disney Land Paris without any kids was like being stranded in a Stephen King novel with no way out. Run faster!
Charles de Gaulle Airport, for me, has always been a labyrinth of disappointment. Just as I entered the E2 terminal I heard the final boarding announcement… The gate sign gleamed like the finishing line at slalom ski race, and I weaved my way through the crowd, tapping off on people with every turn. I arrived at the gate. “Did I make it?” I said to the attendant. He didn’t respond. Still staring at the keyboard, he greeted me with an irked brow.
“You…” dragging it out, “…just made it. In one minute, the gate will be closed.”
I was the last passenger to get on the plane. Walking down the aisle, eyeballs locked and followed me like gun barrels at a firing squad. I was the reason the plane was going to be late. I was the enemy. I was the asshole.
My seat was at the back of the plane, next to the window. My seatmates stood up to let me in. Not only did they have to sit next to the enemy, but the enemy was also sweating profusely. Feeling like I needed to explain myself, I said, “My plane [huffing and sweating] was late getting in,” making sure everyone knew Delta was the real asshole.
“We’ve all been there,” said the woman in the middle seat. She had blonde hair; clear-coated, manicured nails; and teeth like I have never seen on a European. “I’ve almost missed my last two connections.”
“Where are you traveling from?” I said.
“Brazil. I’ve been ten days. Now, I come home.” Her Swedish accent echoed with kindness.
The plane taxied to the runway, departed on time, and my new friend, Maria, and I told stories all the way to Stockholm. She’s a dentist from Strängnäs, Sweden, and every year, she travels to Brazil to donate ten days of free dental care.
“How long will you be in Sweden for?” she asked.
“If you are traveling around, and need a place to stay, I would like to invite you to our house. My husband would love to meet you.”
She offered her home without knowing anything about me. “You are so kind. Thank you. It would be great to meet him. What does your husband do?”
“He works for the commune. In charge of arts and culture.”
“So cool!” I went on to tell her about the RGA project and our performance tour, from Montana through Europe. By the time we landed in Stockholm, it felt like we’d known each other for years. She told me about her daughters, her love for the outdoors and skiing, and her passion to help people; turns out she knows one of my friends who lives in Eskilstuna. If I didn’t know any better, I would think it’s a small world that we live in. But it’s not small, it’s huge; and it often feels overwhelming and full of confusion. But sometimes you meet a complete stranger who, despite all the infinite variables, makes it all easy to understand.
“I can’t think of a better way to start my long journey. Thank you, Maria. I really hope our paths cross again. If we our schedules match up, it would be great to stay at your house.” To support her love for the outdoors, I gave her Tim’s drawing titled, “Rose Mtn. Snag,” and book number 187.
“Thank you so much. I can’t wait to show my husband. And, yes, I hope to see you again too.”